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#CallDrops: Telcos to TRAI: Extend compensation deadline until SC provides a ruling


Telecom associations including Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), and Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (Auspi) urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in a letter to not implement its order of compensating consumers for call drops until the SC provides clarifications/orders on March 10, reports Economic Times.

After failing to get an interim stay order, the two associations on behalf of telcos including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications, and Tata Teleservices told TRAI through a letter that their request is based on an update “from their legal counsel (Agarwal Law Associates) on the proceedings in Supreme Court on March 4”.

The SC on March 4 instructed telcos to ask TRAI to delay the deadline (of March 7) for compensating consumers facing call drops, after refusing to pass an interim stay order for the same. On Februaury 29. The Delhi HC upheld an order passed by TRAI which stated that all telecom operators will have to pay Re 1 to compensate consumers in case of call drops. Following the Delhi HC ruling, TRAI specified March 7 as the deadline to submit to submit a compliance report regarding compensation for consumers facing call drops.

Telcos, COAI, AUSPI objections: It is to be noted that the regulation was originally set to be effective from January 2016; telco operators opposed the decision and went on to file a case with the Delhi HC along with support from industry associations, Auspi and COAI, challenging the order and calling for a stay on the decision. Later, the TRAI told the court that imposing a fine on telecom operators by asking them to compensate customers for call drops, is a matter of policy decision, which the court should not transgress upon.

In June 2015, the Department of Telecom had suggested the TRAI that operators should offer free minutes or credit to tackle the issue of frequent call drops, after it received several complaints from consumers about increasing call drops and falling voice quality. Accordingly, the telecom regulator asked operators to submit a plan of action to tackle call drops in July and started a consultation paper (pdf) in August.

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Falling standards: Earlier in February, the TRAI went on to release a detailed analysis of network performance of top telecom service providers in 7 cities including Delhi and Mumbai. The report was published after conducting ‘Independent Drive Tests’ (IDTs) across a 600 Km route for Delhi and Mumbai; and a 300 Km route for the other cities.

Call drops below permissible limits:
Pune seems to have had the worst telecom quality, according to the TRAI analysis. The Blocked Call Rate as of December 2015 for Tata(3G) was recorded at a whopping 36.73%; Airtel (3G) at 17.01%; Idea at 15.90%; Vodafone(3G) at 10.76%. The permissible limit is set at just less than 3% by the TRAI.

While, the Dropped Call Rate for Pune during Dec ‘15 for Tata(3G) was recorded at an alarming 42.93%; Idea(3G) at 20.96%; BSNL(3G) at 11.64%; Airtel(3G) at 7.91%. The permissible Dropped Call Rate is set at just less than or equal to 2% by the TRAI.

The alarming results were also opposed by telcos, as TRAI stated that it conducted these tests after consulting with the telecom operators themselves. TRAI also added that it would conduct more Independent Drive Tests in April, with more cities on their list. Subsequently on January TRAI had asked all telecom operators to submit daily updates on their network performance, including call drops and voice quality, as well as daily cell network parameters.

Image Credit: Flickr User Indi Samarajiva under CC BY SA 2.0

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